Bronchitis in the time of COVID
More than two weeks ago, around 4pm on Friday, March 12th, I suddenly felt exhausted. I’d had an average amount of sleep that week, been averagely physical, and had no reason to feel so tired. The next day, I woke up with a wicked cough. Imagine a toy dog with barking sound effects but a dying battery because the bark button got stuck. Also, somehow it got full of mucus.
Is It COVID?
I asked the responsible question, “Do I have COVID?” I’ve left my home less than once a week, other than dropping off and picking my girls up, so my circle is tiny. With COVID being more contagious than an ear worm, that could have been enough. So my family and I isolated, and I went for a COVID test ASAP, my first.
Everything they say about COVID tests is true. Fortunately, mine came back negative. My kids returned to school and daycare, and my wife could go to the office.
Are You Sure It’s Not COVID?
Two things lingered:
- The knowledge that COVID false-negatives are a thing, and that COVID symptoms manifest asymmetrically;
- My cough.
Cold medicine helped me get through the day, but they just mask my symptoms, they don’t treat them. The symptoms persisted. So I navigated the prospect of visiting a clinic.
It’s funny that in my effort to conclusively rule out COVID, I exposed myself to the highest likelihood of contracting COVID since the pandemic began. Sick people go to clinics! Contagious, sick people. With who knows what kinds of lifestyles and views on masks. And in a world plagued by a super contagious virus, only the desperately sick who risk a trip to the clinic.
So I aimed to arrive at the clinic as early as possible to avoid people entirely.
It ends up, clinics figured out that a packed waiting room acts as a COVID incubator way before I did. They converted the entrance to the waiting room into a front desk, and had people line up outside, with social distance markers on the ground. Smart.
When I got to the front of the line and described my symptoms, the nurse receiving me took a step back. I went with “I’ve had a terrible cough and sore throat for two weeks. I have been tested for COVID and it came back negative.” Maybe instead I should have gone with “Before I tell you about my symptoms, you should know my COVID test came back negative.” Or maybe that would have ended up with the same reaction.
The nurse speculated that I might have bronchitis. To my surprise, they’d set up bronchitis phone consultations, specifically to keep people with COVID-like symptoms from making everyone at the clinic nervous.
I called the number and asked about the bronchitis test. This baffled the lady on the other end. I tried a few different phrasing, with bronchitis being the only consistency. She asked if I meant I wanted to talk to a doctor about bronchitis. Not sure why it took so long, but we got there!
The doctor called, we talked bronchitis for a bit, then he faxed a prescription for antibiotics to a pharmacy. What a time to be alive!
For more than two weeks now, my bronchitis impacted my productivity and general comfort. And yet, it’s weird to even complain about it. In a world where others die from these same symptoms, an unusual amount of coughing and phlegm feels insignificant. I have “It’s OK, it’s just bronchitis” at the ready when I go out in case of a coughing fit, which just shows that this can be worse.
All things considered, this is the worst I’ve felt all year. Which, somehow, makes me feel better.